19. November 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, 295 pages, read by Angie, on 11/19/2014

Call Hunt is probably the only kid who ever tried to fail at getting into the Magisterium. Call’s father is a mage so Call knows about magic, but his father hasn’t done any magic since Call was a baby. Call’s mom was killed in the last mage war, leaving only a note that said to kill the child. Despite all his efforts Call does get into mage school and is whisked off to be an apprentice for the most prestigious mage Master Rufus. Along with Tamara and Aaron, Call studies magic and learns to fit in at school. There are the typical school situations, Jasper the Bully, Celia the Crush, Drew the Bullied and of course the unspeakable evil who wants to destroy everything. Call is also given more information about how his mother died, what his father actually thinks of him and the truth behind his background. The last is a pretty big shocker that is definitely going to play out in future books.

I admit that I thought this book was a bit of a chore to get through. The comparisons to Harry Potter are plentiful and this book just doesn’t compare in terms of story and quality. Call is definitely no Harry. In fact, he is an obnoxious brat a lot of the time and not the easiest character to root for. A lot of the other characters just seemed one dimensional and under-developed. The world building is decent, but I thought the magic and the previous wars could have been fleshed out a bit. It is set in the modern real world, but it doesn’t really explain how magic interacts with the world. It seems that normal people don’t know about magic yet there are all these chaos animals out there and there have been a lot of mage wars. Not sure how they keep all that from the general public. This is the beginning of a five-part series; not sure I’ll read the rest but I do hope it improves.

17. November 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Nightmares! by Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller, Karl Kwasny (Illustrations), 368 pages, read by Angie, on 11/16/2014

Charlie Laird has been having nightmares ever since his family moved into the purple mansion. Charlie’s mom died several years ago and his dad just married Charlotte. Charlie thinks Charlotte is a witch and haunting his dreams. Every night he battles the witch in the netherworld (the land of nightmares). Because he is not sleeping well he has become crabby and mean during the day. He is driving everyone away including his dad and his little brother Jack. One night Charlie goes through a portal into the netherworld. He realizes he may never get back home unless he faces his fears. He has help from a couple of nightmares, Meduso and Dabney, and from his friends who were also having nightmares. Together they must defeat the evil president of the world and his goblin army as well as face their own nightmares so they can go home.

So whenever I see a book written by a celebrity I am usually pretty skeptical. Did the celebrity really write the thing? Was it only published because the person was famous? Is it going to be as terrible as I think it will be? So I had pretty low expectations when I started reading Nightmares! and boy was I surprised when it turned out to be an entertaining read. It think this is a book that is going to appeal to a lot of readers. It has just the right amount of scariness: not so scary it will give kids real nightmares, but scary enough to keep it interesting. I think a lot of kids will also be able to relate to Charlie as well. This is a story about dealing with your fears and facing what scares you. Everyone is scared of something.

16. November 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet, 314 pages, read by Kira, on 11/14/2014

Witch_and_Wizard_CoverA fantasy novel by one of the most popular (if Not the MOST popular author – I think he has the broadest appeal).  I’d had such good luck with David Baldacci, and Nora Roberts.  Well this time I struck out.  There was way more freaking out than was necessary and also too much immediate foreshadowing “my next decision was stupid, and unfortunately, so was my next”.  I would think someone like Patterson would be good at straight out telling a story, without so much dancing around with the thoughts of the main characters.  Basically two teens wake up in the middle of the night and are taken to jail, after a new order has been elected into office.  Oh, yeah, and they both apparently have major powers, which their parents explained to them, except they weren’t listening.

13. November 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags: ,

The Capture by Kathryn Lasky, 222 pages, read by Kira, on 11/04/2014

gallery_owl_galleryRecommended by one of our regular teen readers years ago, I now have the opportunity to read this series.  The Capture starts with the protagonist, newly-hatched owlet named, Soren, spending a few weeks in the nest, before his elder clutch-mate Klud, pushes him over the edge (reminiscent of E. E. Knights Dragon series).  From there he gets captured by an evil group of owls, who snatch baby owls, and imprisoned at the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls.  Here Soren meets Gylfie a tiny elf owl, and the two attempt to withstand the brainwashing the academy imposes.

 


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12. November 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Clariel: the Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix, 382 pages, read by Kira, on 11/08/2014

index2In this prequel to the Sabriel series, protagonist Clariel, is forced to move to the city of Belisaire with her parents.  Her mother is moving to the capital, because it provides better opportunities for her work as a goldsmith.  Clariel hates being cooped up in the city – and is desperate to escape.  She is subjected to having to act properly, and decide whether or not to step into the political machinations.  There is a very funny scene at her first class at the academy – the subject “drinking tea”, where all sorts of etiquette and protocols are to be observed, where the instructor struggles in vain to rein his 5 students in. Throughout the novel, Clariel struggles with doing the right thing versus escaping and gaining her own freedom.  Returning readers will be delighted that Moggett the sarcastic cat-like creature has an extended role.

 

09. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Only Thing Worse Than Witches by Lauren Magaziner, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 11/08/2014

Rupert Campbell lives in one of the only towns with witches and he is fascinated by them. Unfortunately, his mom doesn’t want him to have anything to do with witches. Rupert has the most horrible, sadistic teacher in the world Mrs. Frabbleknacker who gleefully tortures her students on a daily basis. The first time we meet Rupert he is knee deep in the town dump looking for a paperclip Mrs. Frabbleknacker hid. Rupert answers an add in the paper for a witch’s apprentice and meets Witchling Two. Witchling Two needs help passing her magic exams. She has a lot of trouble with her spells. Seems like every spell she says comes out as the rhyme of what she meant. Witchling Two is absolutely hilarious. She has very bizarre ideas about humans. She thinks they cry when they are happy and is always mixing up sayings. She also loves lollipops and is terrified of bunnies. She and Rupert set up her lair in his basement because she is not supposed to associate with humans and will get in trouble if the witch council finds out.

I absolutely adored Witchling Two and her fumbling ways. Her ability to mix up the simplest things was truly remarkable. I liked that Rupert was the sensible one of the group always trying to get Witchling to study and practice for her exams. I also really loved Mrs. Frabbleknacker and how truly evil she was. She is one of the best villains I have read in a long while. Her classes were ingenious and torturous and hilarious. I think this is a book kids are going to really enjoy. It is equal parts mystery, fantasy and humor which is a wonderful mix.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Circle of Stones by Catherine Fisher, 304 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/27/2014

Three interwoven, spine-tingling historical thrillers from the New York Times bestselling author of Incarceron.

Suspense, mysticism, and history encircle three separate but related narratives in this fantasy novel. Today, Sulis, a teenage girl with a mysterious past, arrives in Bath with a new identity, trailed by the person she’s trying to outrun.  In 1740, Zac is apprenticed to an architect obsessed with Druidic mysteries, but has his own secret—and destructive—agenda.  In ancient England, a druid king discovers the healing waters of a magical spring, where he founds a great city, and the heart of Fisher’s story. Through each voice, the mysteries are revealed, linking Sulis, Zac, and the king through the circles of time.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale by Charles de Lint, Charles Vess (Illustrator), 272 pages, read by Angie, on 11/07/2014

Sarah Jane is the middle child of seven red-haired sisters. She has become friends with Aunt Lillian who lives in the mountains above her family’s farm. Aunt Lillian tells Sarah Jane stories about the Apple Tree Man and the King of the Cats and the fairies. Sarah Jane is drawn to Aunt Lillian’s simpler way of life. One day when she is collecting ‘sang (ginseng) she discovers a sangman badly injured. Not wanting to get involved in a fairy conflict but not wanting to let the little man die. She brings the man back to Lillian’s but doesn’t realize the chain of events she has started. She has interfered in a war between the bee fairies and the sang fairies. Soon all six of her sisters has been pulled in and Sarah Jane must figure out how to return the injured sangman and save her sisters.

This is the first Charles de Lint book I have read, but I have heard a lot of good things about his books. I enjoyed Sarah Jane’s story a lot and thought she was very well thought out. However, I kept getting her sisters confused and was never as sure about them as I was about Sarah Jane. I also wished there was more to the fairy story. I know this is a companion to The Cats of Tanglewood Forest which tells Lillian’s story and I kind of wish I had read that one first. I think it would have filled in some of the details I was missing in this one.

06. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 11/06/2014

Arianne and her family live on a horse farm in the 1960s. Arianne’s rock star father abandoned them after her little brother Robbie was born. Robbie is a thalidomide baby with physical disabilities. One night the family goes out to the field to watch the Pleiades and Arianne witnesses a white light jumping in among the horses. Then their old pony Agora becomes pregnant and gives birth to a centaur. The little pony boy, who they name Kai after Chiron, becomes the focus of the family, the stable manager Martha and the vet Dr. Herks. They all pull together to keep Kai safe and away from prying eyes even if it means they lose some of their riders and boarders. Kai is a typical centaur with a horse body and a boy torso and head. He becomes one of the family as he grows at an astonishing rate. Of course no secret this big can stay a secret forever. It is up to the family to figure out how to keep control of the story and to keep Kai safe.

This was an interesting mix of historical fiction and fantasy. I thought it was really smart to set the story in the past because there is no way they would have been been able to keep the secret in the world of today’s technology. I thought it was a great story about a family and the unconditional love they felt for each other. I don’t think I have ever read a children’s book with a thalidomide baby character so this was also a nice piece of history that kids are probably not familiar with. However, I will admit that I was a bit bored by the story. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just seemed very slow story with a lot of repetition.

05. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

Complete Nothing by Kieran Scott, 310 pages, read by Sarah, on 11/03/2014

  What happens when a goddess is banished to earth by Zeus?  Does she still have her powers?  Or will she be on her own to complete her tasks at hand?  True (Eros) was banished to earth and has to match 3 couples before she can be restored to the heavens.  This wouldn’t be so bad, except, the love of her life has been sent down, too.  And Orion has no recollection of who she is.  This fantasy book was pretty good.  I enjoyed the references to the different gods and goddesses and how they could effect True’s mission.

04. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Paula

The Little Prince by De Saint-Exupery, Antoine, 91 pages, read by Paula, on 10/31/2014

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“In the exquisite imagery of this fairy tale, the poet-writer shares with children something of the mystic’s vision and wisdom of life”.–New York Public Library.

A beautiful tale of friendship, love and loneliness.  Sad but heartwarming.

04. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Spirit Animals Special Edition: Tales of the Great Beasts by Brandon Mull, Nick Eliopulos, Billy Merrell, Gavin Brown, Emily Seife, 192 pages, read by Angie, on 11/04/2014

Tales of the Great Beasts explores the war of the Devourer and his Conquerors. It starts with the rise of the Devourer and how he became the Reptile King. We then get chapters on each of the Fallen of the Great Beasts: Jhi the Panda, Briggan the Wolf, Uraza the Leopard and Essix the Falcon. We learn how each of these joined the fight, how the Greencloaks first started and how the war ended with the four dying and the two evil Great Beasts being imprisoned. It is a wonderful back story for the Spirit Animals series. I received this book from Netgalley.com.

03. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

A girl runs through the forest covered only in spiderwebs. She has no name but is running towards something. Her path is blocked by a cabin which turns out to be the home of a witch. She rescues a boy captured by the witch and together they set off to their destination. They are headed to Pennyroyal Academy. The girl is going to join the princess corps and the boy, Remington, plans to train as a knight. At Pennyroyal, the girl is given the name Cadet Eleven but shortens it to Evie. Evie becomes friends with a few of the other princess hopefuls in the Ironbone Corps. The girls are training to be princesses so they can go out into the world and fight the evil witches. They are walking in the footsteps of the great princesses like Pennyroyal and Snow White and Cinderella. Princesses are the only hope in stopping the evil witches and their plans to take over the world. The boys are training as knights so that they can fight the dragons.

If Evie had known what being a princess was all about she might not have come to Pennyroyal. Turns out Evie is under a memory curse and can’t recall what her life was like. All she remembers is the last few years with her family: her mother, father and sister. She tried to fly like her sister and almost killed her father and that is when she realized just how different she was from the rest of her family. She ran away because she isn’t a dragon and doesn’t want to cause her dragon family anymore pain. At Pennyroyal Evie does learn more about her background and her curse. Everything comes to a head during one of the training exercises when the truth behind her real family is revealed.

I loved this book a lot more than I thought I would. It is one book that when I finished reading it I immediately wanted another book in the series. I loved the different take on fairy tales; princesses are not born they are trained to become who they are. I really enjoyed the fact that Larson was able to so successful intertwine actual fairy tale stories with this tale. Evie is a fantastic character. She makes mistakes and isn’t the most knowledgeable but she has what every good princess is supposed to have: courage, compassion, kindness and discipline. I can’t wait to see where the next book will go and if it will answer some of the other questions that arose during this book.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

New Orleans! by Giada De Laurentiis, Francesca Gambatesa (Illustrations), 144 pages, read by Angie, on 10/29/2014

Alfie and Emilia are off to New Orleans in this adventure. They find themselves at the La Salle Royale restaurant and staying with the La Salle family. They get to experience New Orleans during the Jazz Fest and help the La Salles solve a mystery. This is again a nice offering from Giada. She really knows a lot about food and the places she writes about. It makes for interesting reading. It also makes me want to attempt to cook some of the dishes she describes.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Hong Kong! by Giada De Laurentiis, Francesca Gambatesa (Illustrations), 144 pages, read by Angie, on 10/29/2014

Brother and sister Alfie and Emilia are always excited to see what Aunt Zia is going to cook up for them next. Her cooking is magic and able to transport the kids to a different place. This time they are sent to Hong Kong. They are mistaken for exchange students and stay with a family opening a new restaurant. They get to know Hong Kong and all the exciting things it has to offer all the while eating a lot of great food.

I haven’t read the first two books in this series but I don’t think you need to in order to understand it. It is a great book for fans of Magic Tree House. The kids are likable and Giada includes a lot of good information on the location and the foods available. It really isn’t a good series to read when you are hungry; you are going to be even hungrier after you are finished!

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Searching For Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, 242 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/29/2014

Cimorene, the princess who refuses to be proper, meets her match in the not-quite-kingly Mendanbar. With the aid of a broken-down magic carpet and a leaky magical sword, the two tackle a series of dragon-nappings.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

The Finisher by by David Baldacci, 497 pages, read by Kira, on 10/29/2014

index2 I hadn’t read anything by popular author David Baldacci, so when I saw this book in my favorite genre I thought I’d give it a try.  This strategy paid off when I discovered Nora Roberts’ fantasy trilogy Morrigan’s Cross.  It is a very fast-paced read with a rather different world, some sort of apocalypse, I believe, with perhaps magic or maybe its technology.  Things are Not as they seem, it took me awhile to figure out how this universe/world worked.  The main character Vega Jane (an orphan of course) sees her coworker being chased by tracking hounds followed by the City Council members.  Her friend is headed into the Quag – wherein there are only monsters and no sane member ventures into.  Yet things are Not as they seem.  Vega Jane’s transformation seemed a lot more believable than a number of heroes, I’m Not sure why.  I cannot wait for the sequels!

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29. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin , 368 pages, read by Angie, on 10/28/2014

Many years ago a band of 60 went into the mountains to battle the Nethergrim. Three returned: the wizard Vithric, the warrior Tristan and the local John Marshall. The kingdom has been relatively peaceful since then. Edmund’s family owns the local inn but he really wants to be a wizard. He hoards his collection of books and tries to teach himself spells. Katherine is John Marshall’s daughter. She loves training horses and learning swordplay from her father. Tom is a slave to a horrible master. His friendship with Edmund and Katherine is the only light spot in his very dark life. Their lives change when several children are taken from the village, including Edmund’s brother, by the monsters of the Nethergrim. John Marshall sets off to rescue them, but the children can’t wait at home. Edmund, Katherine and Tom take off for the mountains on a perilous journey. They will discover scary truths about the Nethergrim, its history and what it wants with the children.

This book reminded me a bit of the Lord of the Rings. There is an evil in the world and a band of heroes must find a way to defeat it. It is a pretty dense book for a middle grade novel and does get a bit slow in the middle. I wanted the kids to set off on their journey much quicker than they did. There is a lot of backstory and preparations to get through before they head for the mountains. The last quarter of the book is pretty exciting with some interesting revelations about the Nethergrim and what happened to the band of men years ago. This is the beginning of a series so the next books will hopefully pick up the pace a bit.

29. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tracy · Tags:

The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan, 352 pages, read by Tracy, on 10/02/2014

Revelation “Reve” Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

Reve and her husband are world-famous Las Vegas illusionists. They have three lovely young daughters, a beautiful home, and what seems like a charmed life. But Reve’s world is shattered when an intruder alters her trick pistol and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage.

Fearing for her daughters’ lives, Reve flees with them to the place she has always felt safest—an antiquated farmhouse in the forest of Hawley Five Corners, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, and her oldest friend—and first love—is the town’s chief of police. Here, in the forest, with its undeniable air of enchantment, Reve hopes she and her girls will be protected.

Delving into the past for answers, Reve is drawn deeper into her family’s legends. What she discovers is The Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient leather-bound journal holding mysterious mythic power. As she pieces together the truth behind the book, Reve will have to shield herself and her daughters against an uncertain, increasingly dangerous fate. For soon it becomes clear that the stranger who upended Reve’s life in Las Vegas has followed her to Hawley—and that she has something he desperately wants.

Brimming with rich history, suspense, and magic, The Hawley Book of the Dead is a brilliantly imagined debut novel from a riveting new voice.

25. October 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Horror, Noelle, Paranormal

Sunshine by Robin McKinley, 416 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/17/2014

There are places in the world where darkness rules, where it’s unwise to walk. Sunshine knew that. But there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years, and she needed a place to be alone for a while.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t alone. She never heard them coming. Of course you don’t, when they’re vampires.

They took her clothes and sneakers. They dressed her in a long red gown. And they shackled her to the wall of an abandoned mansion–within easy reach of a figure stirring in the moonlight.

She knows that he is a vampire. She knows that she’s to be his dinner and that when he is finished with her, she will be dead. Yet, as dawn breaks, she finds that he has not attempted to harm her. And now it is he who needs her to help him survive the day.